There was a time in my life when I suffered from a severe speech impediment, but I slowly overcame it when I quit sticking my foot in my mouth.
Foot-in-your-mouth-itis must have been a common affliction in New Testament times because it was a large focus of the book of James:
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body. ~James 3:2
Other than the book of Proverbs, you’ll find more about the tongue and communication in James than anywhere else in the Bible. James is full of practical principles for life. Here’s two of them:
- The tongue is the index of the heart. What you say reveals what is hidden deep down inside of your heart.
- Your emotions act as a barometer and reveal your level of maturity. When people get angry, they stumble in many ways and often say things they later regret.
Thanks to James, I’ve noticed three patterns of communication that are characteristic of most people:
- Some people implode. When they get angry, they say very little, withdraw, and hold everything in.
- Other people explode with salty language, and they let everything out. These people can be as volatile as the Iran nuclear deal..
- There’s a third pattern in which a person reloads and wises up. James describes this person in the words below:
Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness . . . the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace. ~James 3:13-18
Which pattern defines you. Do you implode, explode, or reload? You may see your pattern in these wise words from Solomon?
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.
As I was thumbing through one of my files, I found a quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. In September of 1999 Talk Magazine listed him as one of the 50 best speakers in the United States.
During a lecture on the power and often negative impact of words, Rabbi Telushkin said: “If you cannot go for 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go for 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you’ve lost control of your tongue.”
Have you lost control of your tongue? Compare your verbal characteristics to the verses below:
- James 3:10 “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
- Proverbs 8:7-8”For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them.”
- Psalm 10:7 “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.”
- Psalm 71:8 “Let my mouth be filled with Your praise And with Your glory all the day.”
- Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
As you think about what the good Rabbi said, and as you consider the Scripture above, I hope you’ll say: “Today I will:”
- Slow down enough to consider how I speak to my precious family. I will remember to thank God for each one of them. I will not curse them. I will bless them.
- Reflect the goodness of God and determine to be a conduit of His grace and love.
- See the needs of others, and help bear the burden of those who are overloaded with grief, sorrow, or some trial.
Let me suggest that you use the words of the following Psalm as a prayer for today: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”
When Jesus was crucified, there was a message written in three languages that stated: This is Jesus the King of the Jews. You may know these three languages were Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; but, do you know how many languages exist in the world today?
There are some 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, and the language most frequently spoken is Mandarin Chinese. Due to China’s large population it is estimated that 1,213,000,000 people speak this language.
There is a country much smaller than China and it lies just south of the equator, and 99 miles north of Australia. It is Papua New Guinea, and it is smaller than China in both land mass and population. What’s interesting, however, is that with a population of just over 7 million, this country is incredibly diverse when it comes to languages. The Linguistic Society reports that Papua New Guinea has 832 indigenous languages.
Even though there are thousands of languages spoken in the world today, there will be a day when everyone speaks the same thing. There is coming a day when people will hear the name of Jesus and bow their knees to Him, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
There’s no need to wait for some future day to confess the goodness of God. In whatever language you choose, you can follow the example of the Psalms, and do it now:
- Psalm 7:17: I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
- Psalm 9:2: I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
- Psalm 30:4 Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
If someone surprised you with a tape recording of everything you have said this week, what would you discover? This question came to my mind after I read Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”
After listening to the recording, what would you discover about the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart? Would God find your words to be detestable or acceptable?
There are several places in the Bible that remind us of the importance of minding our tongue:
• Psalm 144:8 Warns of a person “Whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.”
• Proverbs 6:2 reminds us that, “You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.
• Proverbs 16:24 says that, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
If you could stand at the edge of a valley and hear the echo of every word you have spoken in your life, what would you hear? Would you hear the reverberating sound of pleasant and wholesome words, or would you hear the hollow sound of rude and crude language?
I encourage you to take the next day or two and focus on Psalm 19:14, and make it your prayer to God: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”
In an act of public contrition General Motors has fired 15 employees and reprimanded 5 others following a cover-up regarding a faulty ignition switch. This glitch in technology has been linked to several accidents and deaths, and it has prompted an apology from GM’s Chief Executive, Mary Barra.
Ms. Barra described the behavior of GM as a “pattern of incompetence and neglect.” She also said: “We will accept responsibility for our mistakes, and we will do everything in our power to make sure this never happens again (WSJ Online).”
What is a pattern? It is the customary manner in which a business or organization operates or the behavior that defines a person.
In Paul’s letter to Titus he writes about a pattern or example that is to be followed. As you read it, notice what Paul says about a person’s individual responsibilities and the character traits he emphasizes: “Encourage younger men likewise to be self-controlled, showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us (Titus 2:6-8).”
Where is the self-control, integrity, and dignity today? They seem to have been replaced with crude conduct, a vocabulary of four letter words, and an anarchistic attitude.
In Colossians 5:6, Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt (wisdom).” Is grace and salt (wisdom) a pattern of your life or have you forgotten the grace and become too salty in your speech?